All I Want for Christmas…

December 13, 2005

PopMatters.com

Dear Santa,

As you know, I’ve been a relatively good boy this year, certainly as compared to last year. And now that my community service is done and many of the civil suits settled, I feel like I’m finally working with a clean slate!

We’ve not always communicated efficiently in the past, and so I’m keeping this year’s wish list short and “civil-tongued” — I think that’s the term you used in your reply to last year’s letter. You’ll note that this time around, per your request, there are no overt threats against Mrs. Claus or the elves if I don’t get my way. I am willing to make some changes if you are. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ambition

Hard to say, really, which moment packed the most punch. There was the kidnapping of a child by spooky sea hillbillies, or the unexpected detonation of a new character by dynamite. The landlocked slave ship. The anthropomorphic smoke demon. The crazy French chick stealing the baby. The heroin addict’s apparent relapse. Or maybe it was the bio-mechanical island monster uprooting trees and dragging people underground. Tough call. Read the rest of this entry »

Discovery: Hollywood!

May 20, 2005

PopMatters.com

The native habitat of the US movie and entertainment industry, Hollywood, California is lush and densely populated ecosystem. Home to thousands of fascinating species, the Hollywood landscape is swarming with the strange and wonderful — ruthless predators, docile vegans, majestic failures, and vast roaming herds of Beautiful People. On your next trip to LA, see if you can spot some of these amazing creatures! Read the rest of this entry »

Da Vinci Turns Two

April 12, 2005

The Fiction of Historical Accuracy

PopMatters.com

Dan Brown’s mystery/thriller The Da Vinci Codeis the kind of phenomenon for which the words “mammoth” and “blockbuster” were seemingly invented. Every now and again, an author manages to find the cultural sweet spot with surgical precision, and many trees are felled to print the billions of pages demanded by hungry readers.

In fact, the book has been at or near the top of the sales charts for more than two years now — the first printing hit shelves in March, 2003. At one point, Da Vinci was selling around 100,000 copies per week. Two years later, and it’s still hovering in the top five of the New York Timesbestsellers list. To date, it has sold more than 18 million copies and has been translated into at least 44 languages. Everyone I know has read this book. Everyone you know has read this book.

Read the rest of this entry »

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MORE THAN HUMAN:Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement

The Bright Side of Biotechnology

The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible. 
— Arthur C. Clarke

Ridley Scott’s excellent and influential 1982 film Blade Runner — based on a Philip K. Dick novel — introduces us to the Tyrel Corporation, a kind of bioengineering firm writ insanely large. Tyrel manufactures robot animals as well as humanoid Replicants, androids that equal or exceed human capabilities and are used for “off-world labor.” Slaves, in other words. The film depicts one of cinema’s great futuristic dystopias, in which out-of-control technology has stripped Earth of virtually all life forms and replaced them with ersatz machines. Tyrel’s Replicant motto: “More Human Than Human.” Read the rest of this entry »

Published on PopMatters.com

Among the strangest spectacles available these days is the televised poker tournament. How is this possible? Ten strange-looking guys sitting around a table and staring at each other doesn’t seem the stuff of compelling television. And yet somehow, it is.

High profile programs are now regularly aired on ESPN (The World Series of Poker), Bravo (Celebrity Poker Showdown), the Travel Channel (The World Poker Tour), and Fox Sports. The major broadcast networks have also started picking up on the trend. For instance, this year NBC produced its own poker event — the National Heads-Up Poker Championship — to counterprogram against the Super Bowl pre-game shows on Fox. ESPN even has its own drama, Tilt, fictionalizing the world of high-stakes poker in Vegas. Poker is, suddenly, serious business. Read the rest of this entry »

The latest skirmish in America’s Culture Wars is being fought, hilariously, in a merry border village called ToonTown, with non-combatants such as SpongeBob SquarePants getting caught in the crossfire. I say hilariously because at first blush, the controversy seems absurd. At second blush, it’s depressing and a little frightening. But then, at third blush, it’s hilarious again, so what the hell — let’s dig in. Read the rest of this entry »